Thursday, October 20, 2011

Round Three

Dear blog: I have not written to you for some time because I have been editing editing editing. And, on the side, data collection for my dissertation. Or something like that.

I have been desperately trying to get my story down to a reasonable word count. Read: under 100,000. Doing this can be very very difficult - especially when there are all sorts of scenes that I wanted to add. But last night I did it! Down to 99,499 words and counting. Still three chapters left to edit!

When editing, you often find some interesting things that you've inadvertently done with your story. Named two characters the same name, tossed characters into the middle of scenes when they weren't originally there. That kind of thing. And then there are the typos. My favorite typo today had resulted in my main character developing multiple stomachs in Chapter 20. Girl-cow ... Edgy? Maybe? ... I considered turning it into some sort of commentary on GMOs in the U.S. today, but I ultimately decided against it. It would have put me over my word count.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Recommendation: Uglies

Scott Westerfield

Pages: 448
Ages: 12+

Tally is tired of being ugly. From her dorm window, she can see the bright shining lights of New Pretty Town and she wants nothing more than to turn sixteen and get Prettied so she can live there. Shay is a rebel. Shay is exciting. When she reveals she's escaping, Tally has a choice: stay and be Pretty, or see what lies beyond the city she's always known.

It's hard to say enough good things about this book. It was really brilliant cover to cover. You felt torn about Tally's decisions right along with her - wondering what she would do, what you would do in that situation. It transports you to a world where teens get the very thing they all want - to be just as pretty as everyone else. But while it sounds great on the surface, it doesn't come without consequences - some of them severe. What if becoming pretty meant you had to lose your true self in the process?

Scott Westerfeld's website:

Want more book suggestions? See my other Book Recommendations.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Book Recommendation: Shiver

Maggie Stiefvater
Pages: 390
Ages: 14+

Ever since that fateful day, the yellow eyes have haunted her thoughts and dreams. Some days she thinks she'd be more at home with the wolves than in her own pale life at Mercy Falls, with increasingly distant friends, and parents who have never been more than occasional inhabitants of the same dwelling. So when her fellow high schooler, Jack Culpepper is violently attacked by the wolf pack and the hunters go on a killing spree, Grace is desperate to stop them. And then there, on her doorstep, bleeding profusely, he appears. The one with yellow eyes. Only he's no longer a wolf - he's human. But can he stay that way?

This was one of those books that gets under your skin and becomes incredibly difficult to put down. The characters are so real, the writing like poetry, the story simple, yet compelling. It is told from two points of view, both of whose voices I loved. Read it!

Want more book suggestions? See my other Book Recommendations.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Recommendation: Beautiful Creatures

Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Pages: 563
Ages: 14+

Though all his life he's been able to fit in, Ethan Wate has always known that the tiny southern town of Gatlin isn't for him. The people are too close-minded, ambitions too small, the girls fluffy and fake. Lena is a newcomer to Gatlin, a powerful Caster from a family shunned by those in town. Ethan instantly feels the connection between them. What he doesn't know then is how strong that connection is, and how deeply it will test them. Plagued by a strange dark curse, her relationship with Ethan will threaten their friends, family and the community of Gatlin itself.

A stormy southern gothic tale, this was first and foremost a love story. It is unique in that it is for a female readership, but written with a male protagonist - I loved this! The writing was exquisite, and the story, though lengthy, kept me riveted from cover to cover.

Want more book suggestions? See my other Book Recommendations.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book Recommendation: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Suzanne Collins
Pages: 384
Ages: 14+

Katniss did everything she could to keep her sister's name from getting chosen for the Games. But it wasn't enough. So when despite all odds, her name is called, Katniss jumps in to take her place, knowing exactly what this means - that she'll never return home from the Games alive.
No one from District 12 ever does. 

Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games was, in a word, terrifying. I couldn't put it down. Her writing was vivid, unsettling, and heart-wrenching. I mean who can make you tear up about a character by page 20? A frighteningly good writer that's who. You are immediately caught up in Katniss' world, her repression of emotion, her desperate struggle to save her family, her cool, calculated strategizing in the horror of the arena. You ride her roller-coaster of uncertainty about Peeta and his loyalty, her confusion about their true feelings for one another, and her constant, thinly repressed fear of being caught in her tree-top hideouts or ambushed while seeking the arena's most precious resource - water. Even days after reading this book I find myself glancing surreptitiously over my shoulder in case someone's coming. After all, in the arena, who can you trust?

Things to fear are force-fed to us every day, in the headlines, in Facebook posts, on the nightly news. So there is a part of me that wonders why it would be a good idea to introduce more fear into young readers lives.  But unlike many of the other sources of fear messages, Collins forces you to think critically about fear, human nature, and to wonder what humanity, at its core, is really about.

Website of Suzanne Collins.

Want more book suggestions? See my other Book Recommendations.

Round 2 - fight fight!

Ok, not sure why Street Fighter suddenly popped into my mind. Perhaps its the the caffeine overage. Anyhow. I haven't written on here in forever because I have been working madly to finish draft two of my book. I am proud to say that it is finally finished and 46 pages shorter than draft one, which is great. It still needs to be cut by about 9,000 words, however, but that task will happen after my lovely round two readers have at it.

I'm realizing that next go-around I think I need to start editing about halfway through. I spent a lot of time reworking to first chapters, and felt really great about it, but by the time I got around to about chapter 10, I started getting a mite tired of the editing process. So I'm hoping those final chapters came out ok. Granted, I think the end of the book was better written to begin with, but still, I was perhaps a teeny tiny bit lazy. Or a lot lazy. Only time will tell.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book Recommendation: Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos
R.L. LaFevers

Pages: 344
Ages: 8+

Theodosia's mum has the terrible habit of bringing back all sorts of dreadfully cursed artifacts from her digs in Egypt. Mostly they're just laced with minor demons or creepy dark things that come out at night. But some are worse. Armed only with her carpetbag of scrabbled together 'curse-removing supplies,' Theo must find out who stole the Heart of Egypt before Britain finds itself swarming with a sea of locusts. But stealth is the key. Cabbagey Clive Fagenbush already suspects she's up to something, and if her father knew what she was doing, she'd get shipped off to boarding school, or worse: Grandmother's.

I gobbled this book up. I adored Theo. She's sassy, snarky, begrudingly adventurous, and a little too smart for her own good. A bit bookish and awkward for her age, but full of determination and caring,  with a strong devotion to her parents - despite their absent-mindedness and preoccupation with excavations, and deciphering tablets, and other museum matters. Plus she has a carpet-bag with 'curse-removing supplies' !!! I mean need I say more?? My only complaint was that it was over too quickly, and I'm not quite sure how the bad guys slipped through her fingers, but with almost four other books in the series, I will happily let that slide. Right up there with Terry Prachett's Hat full of Sky series in my book - and that's saying a lot!

Note: Best read with a plateful of jam sandwiches. And a napkin.

Want more book suggestions? See my other Book Recommendations.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Recommendation: Goose Girl

The Goose Girl, Shannon Hale
Shannon Hale
Pages: 383
Ages: 10+

Ani has always felt uncertain about her title of 'Crown Princess'. She doesn't have the gift of persuasive 'people-speaking' like her mother. Instead, she can talk to animals. But how will that help her rule the kingdom of Kildenree? A plot to kill her and infiltrate the throne sends her fleeing to the safe anonymity of a foreign city - taking a job as the king's goose girl. As she tends the geese and her animal-speaking and storytelling skills grow, so does her confidence, until she's ready to face the enemy lurking within the king's walls.

I loved, loved, loved this book. The story was layered, compelling, and surprising, and Shannon Hale's writing is simply beautiful. I loved the complexity of Ani's character as she learns about herself, the things she's taken for granted in life, and the things she finds herself capable of. Hale's rich, startling, descriptions of ordinary objects and scenes pull you out of your seat and force you to look at the world in a new way. I ended the tale wanting to read more about the lives of each of the endearing characters (and even some of the not so pleasant ones). I can't wait to read the rest of her books!

Official website of Shannon Hale.

Want more book suggestions? See my other Book Recommendations.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


This morning, amidst other madness consisting of a million-and-three things on my to-do list before a training session this Saturday, and my bike falling apart on the way to the gym, I finally submitted my short story! There's a three month lag time, which is fine I suppose because over the next 2-3 months I will have very little time for anything but academia!


As I stepped outside the restaurant last night after dinner, I said, "What is that funny cloud?" By the time we'd crossed the parking lot, that funny cloud had overtaken us and turned the sky from a waning light blue to a deep brown. By the time we got home the wind was howling, the power was out, and the lattices in the garden were ripped apart. To step outside was to be immediately swathed in a fine, brown dust that clung to our teeth and eyeballs. I suppose if you live in the Phoenix area long enough, these haboobs might seem dull, but in my four years here, I've never experienced anything like it!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Suds & Surveys

I sent out a survey this morning! My very first data collection instrument for my PhD dissertation. It was a very exciting moment (or really, hours worth of moments, as I had to manually email each request)! Now the problem is something inside me keeps thinking that at any moment I will receive more responses to my survey. So this has been my day so far: type a few sentences, check my survey website, write an email, check my survey website, type up an agenda for this weekend's training session, check my survey website, get a drink of water, check my survey website . . . you get the picture. But so far I only have one measly response! I know that very soon (and perhaps several reminder emails later) all that will change, but right now the one response just looks so sad and forlorn on my screen. Which is why I decided to do the dishes instead of looking at it.

Question - If the whole point of a barbecue is to keep the mess outside, why are there are always 10 times more dishes left in my sink than when I cook a regular meal?? Not that I'm complaining. I was the one that wanted to barbecue in the first place, and sometimes I (secretly) enjoy doing the dishes as a break in my day, but still!!!

I've decided I need to brush up on my Australian English - otherwise I may not understand a word that's being spoken once I get there!

This is how "Barbecue" is pronounced in Australia, courtesy of - click to listen:

Baahbecue  . . . very similar. I'll be fine on the grilling front.

However, I've been looking at: Koala Net's Australian Slang page, and the differences seem dizzying, though I am not sure how widely used some of these phrases are. For example, is a teapot really a "Billy" ?? As an avid tea drinker this will be a critical piece of my vocabulary! And if a "jug" is an electric tea kettle, then what do you call a jug?

Monday, July 4, 2011

My First Blog Entry

It's funny how the little things can change the direction of your life. Applying for an impossible job on a whim, and then landing it. Deciding at the last minute to walk a different way home and meeting someone you spend the rest of your life with. Things like that. So that's why I'm grateful that at the beginning of the year, frustrated with the lag time between my Comprehensive Exams and Prospectus Defense, I decided to start writing up bits of a story that had been forming in my thoughts for some time. At first I thought it was just a time filler (I am horrible at sitting still), but then I realized I loved it. I'd forgotten all about that kind of writing . . . the kind you aren't trying to write up for a term paper or academic journal.

So, here I am, six months later, editing my first YA dystopia / fantasy novel, amidst beginning research for my dissertation on farmers' markets, and completing research for another grant on urban food environments. And hoping that in a few weeks? months? I can start sending off my manuscript to agents. And hoping that putting so much time and energy into my novel writing wont jeopardize my chances of finishing my Ph.D. on time, or at least that I'll finish my data collection before I move to Australia in January!

Because, yes, I am moving to Sydney. It's official! Though no plane tickets are bought yet, my very talented husband has accepted a job as a full time faculty at the University of New South Wales. And so begins the next saga in our adventure. I'm very excited about it . . . I think Australia will be a great place to live, and I can't wait to get out on the Great Barrier Reef! Perhaps at long last I will get my Scuba Certification, bad ears and all. Though the intertidal world has served me well it might be time to progress a little deeper. And of course, Australia is home to the amazing Garth Nix, whose Old Kingdom series is incredible!


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